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Future Relationship: Public Vote

Volume 662: debated on Thursday 27 June 2019

1. What recent discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on a public vote on the terms of the UK’s future relationship with the EU. (911589)

12. If he will hold discussions with Cabinet colleagues on the potential merits of a public vote on the terms of the UK’s future relationship with the EU. (911604)

14. If he will hold discussions with Cabinet colleagues on the potential merits of a public vote on the terms of the UK’s future relationship with the EU. (911606)

I am sorry to hear that. Brexit was supposed to deliver frictionless trade, the exact same benefits as the single market and the customs union and an extra £350 million a week for the NHS, but the Prime Minister was not able to deliver and any actual Brexit deal will fall far short of those promises. Should not the voters get the choice between proceeding on the basis of whatever deal is actually available or remaining?

The voters in the right hon. Gentleman’s constituency, such as those at Tate and Lyle, should get the choice. Eight hundred and fifty people work at Tate and Lyle in his constituency. It is a business that has suffered because of the EU protectionism applied to sugar beet and a business where 19,000 lorries bringing sugar in could be transferred if we moved to cane. He should be listening to voices such as those at Tate and Lyle who want to see us leave because they see what the voters who voted to leave the EU saw, which is the opportunities that Brexit will unlock.

Prior to the referendum, the right hon. Members for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis), and for Wokingham (John Redwood) and the hon. Member for North East Somerset (Mr Rees-Mogg), none of whom are in their places today—no women are on the Conservative Benches either—plus Nigel Farage from outside this House all argued that, if the result were close, we would have to have a confirmatory referendum to be sure. Three years on from parliamentary stalemate on a deal that the EU will not reopen and in a process that involves election law illegality, surely they had a point, as does the Chancellor who says that a people’s vote is perfectly credible. To break the logjam, the will of the people should now prevail.

The hon. Lady talks about a people’s vote. What she really means is a politicians’ vote. What she should do is listen to the voice of people such as John Curtice, a very respected voice, who wrote on 23 June:

“Our poll of polls of how people would vote in another referendum continues to report that the country is more or less evenly divided between remain and leave, much as it was three years ago.”

There are 19,000 EU nationals in my Kensington constituency who have no say over their future post Brexit. They pay their tax, but they have no voice apart from mine. How can I reassure my constituents that I and those who do have a vote will be able to make their representations on the deal?

It is a slightly odd position to take to be talking about how people can be heard in their vote by overturning a vote in which people are seeking to be heard. We have had three questions, all from London MPs, ignoring the fact that, across the nine regions of England, eight voted to leave and only one voted to remain. It is time that we heard more than the voice of London from the Labour Benches.

Perhaps a representative of Leeds might ask a question.

One of the arguments for going back to the people is the economic consequences of a no-deal Brexit. Over the past three weeks, the Select Committee has been taking evidence from the leading industrial sectors of the country representing great British success stories, and we asked them what a no-deal Brexit would mean for them. They said that it would lead to prohibitively high tariffs on farmers and medicine shortages. They said that it would be disastrous, the worst possible option. In the words of Make UK, it would be

“nothing short of an act of economic vandalism”.

Does the Secretary of State support leaving the EU without a deal on 31 October, and, if so, what would he say to those industries?

What I say is, it is better to leave with a deal. That has always been my position, which is why I have consistently voted for a deal. The question for the right hon. Gentleman is why, although his party’s manifesto said that he would respect the referendum result, he is against leaving with no deal and is also against leaving with a deal. The truth is that he wants to remain, and he should be candid about that.

On Monday the Leader of the Opposition asked the Prime Minister a question, but unfortunately she did not answer it, so I am just going to ask the Secretary of State the same question. What would be worse: crashing out with no deal in October, or putting this issue back to the people for a final say?

What would be worse is going back on the democratic decision of the British people—the 17.4 million people who voted to leave. We are committed to honouring that result. The question for the Opposition is: if they do not want to leave on a no-deal basis, why have they consistently voted against a deal when the EU itself says that it is the only deal on the table?

This is questions for the Government, not the Opposition. My grandfather fought in the second world war, and then served in Malaya. When he returned to the UK, he worked at ICI on Teesside. In 2019, there are 7,500 people working in the chemical industry on Teesside. I ask the Secretary of State to put himself in the shoes of one of those workers. For that worker, which is worse: no deal or a second referendum?

The point about the second referendum—[Interruption.] Which is worse? I have answered this question many times. The choice the hon. Lady presents me with would actually be between no deal and no Brexit, for which a second referendum is a proxy because, as the right hon. Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint) has said, a second vote is actually a stop Brexit referendum. If a Member on the shadow Minister’s own Benches can be honest about that, she should be equally candid. In answer to her question, between those two options, I think no Brexit is worse than no deal. No deal would be disruptive, and I have been clear about that to colleagues in my party, but the shadow Minister has consistently voted against a deal, and it is the deal that would have secured the interests of businesses such as the chemicals industry.